Keynote Speakers

Megan Sweeney

Megan Sweeney, Department of Sociology, UCLA

Title: Inequality and Contraceptive Use in Comparative Perspective

Abstract: Overview of Megan’s recent papers that address change and variation in patterns of contraceptive use, relying on data from the U.S. National Surveys of Family Growth and the Generations and Gender Programme.
Biography: Megan M. Sweeney is professor of sociology at UCLA and a faculty affiliate of the California Center for Population Research. Her research centers broadly on the nature, determinants, and consequences of trends and differentials in family patterns and reproductive health. Her work has appeared in a wide array of academic journals, including American Sociological Review, Annual Review of Sociology, Demographic Research, Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Journal of Marriage and Family, and Perspectives on Sexual and Reproductive Health. Dr. Sweeney is currently investigating inequality in the course and consequences of the post-1960 “contraceptive revolution.

John Goldthorpe

John Goldthorpe, Nuffield College, Oxford

Title: Inequality and Opportunity: Sociological reflections on the Great Gatsby Curve

Abstract: In showing an inverse relation between inequality and opportunity, the Great Gatsby Curve (GGC) creates a crisis in liberal ideology. However, the GGC expresses this inverse relation in only a very restricted way, reflecting the assumptions of mainstream economics that inequality can be adequately treated simply in terms of income inequality and opportunity simply in terms of income mobility. And while the idea of an inverse relation has sociological plausibility, when expressed in the form of the GGC, it turns out to be of quite doubtful empirical validity. The task for sociologists is to investigate whether if both inequality and opportunity are treated in a more comprehensive way an inverse relation can be more securely established.
Biography: John Goldthorpe is an Emeritus Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, a Fellow of the British Academy, a Member of the Academia Europaea, a Foreign Member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Statistical Society. His main research interests are in the fields of social stratification and mobility and sociological theory and methodology. His most recent book, published in 2016, is Sociology as a Population Science (Cambridge, Cambridge University Press).


Mathieu Ichou, INED, Paris

Title: Diluting or Transmitting Resources? The Academic Effects of Siblings in Immigrant Families

Abstract: In this paper, I test whether the relationship linking sibship size and birth order to children’s academic outcomes differs between native and immigrant families. Consistent with the Resource Dilution Model, the literature routinely shows a negative effect of large sibship sizes and late birth order on test scores and educational attainment in the general population. However, using the recent large-scale “Trajectories and Origins” survey in France, I demonstrate that this finding does not hold for children from immigrant families who come from high fertility regions. I interpret this result as a product of two processes: the more negative selection of native parents who have a high number of children, compared to immigrant parents; and the specific socializing role of older siblings in immigrant families in which parents have no direct knowledge of the school system of the country of destination. The second process is supported by existing quantitative and ethnographic research showing the strong involvement of older siblings in their brothers’ and sisters’ education within immigrant families. I provide empirical evidence of the first process by creating a measure of sibship size relative to fertility distributions in parents’ countries of birth. When this new “relative sibship size” measure, rather than absolute sibship size, is included in statistical models predicting children’s educational attainment, the significant interaction effect previously detected disappears.
Biography: Mathieu Ichou is a researcher at the French Institute for Demographic Studies (INED), where he is a member of the research units on International Migration and Minorities and on Economic Demography. Before coming to INED, he was a Postdoctoral Prize Research Fellow at Nuffield College, Oxford, and continues to serve as an associate member at the College. He completed his PhD in Sociology at Sciences Po, Paris, where he now teaches and is affiliated with the Sociology Observatory of Change (OSC) as an associate researcher. His research interests include the study of migration and ethnicity; social stratification and inequality, especially in education; international comparison; and quantitative and qualitative methods and their combination.


Juho Härkönen, Department of Sociology, Stockholm

Title: Education, family demography and social inequality: what do we (not) know?

Abstract: Educational divergence in family demography has gained increasing attention ever since Sara McLanahan coined the term “diverging destinies” to describe these trends. In several countries, divorce, single parenthood, unmarried motherhood, and related family demographic behaviours have increased particularly among those with low and middle levels of education, leading to growing gaps between educational groups. Because these same family demographic behaviours are associated with negative socioeconomic outcomes both for adults and children, many commentators have raised concerns of their role in the reproduction of social inequality by education, gender, and across generations. In this presentation, I discuss what is known about these trends, the reasons behind them, as well as their inequality implications. By now, these patterns and trends are increasingly well described across a range of countries. Despite a number of suggested explanations, we still lack solid evidence to draw strong conclusions about the causes behind them. I also discuss the conditions under which educational differences in family demography can lead to widening inequality.
Biography: Juho Härkönen (PhD, European University Institute) is University Lecturer at Stockholm University and Visiting Professor at the University of Turku. His research focuses on the life course and the interplay between family demography and social inequality. Currently, he is work package co-coordinator (with Fabrizio Bernardi) in FamiliesAndSocieties, coordinator of the Stockholm node in the Tackling Inequality in Time of Austerity –consortium as well as PI for a project on parents’ life course experiences and early child health. His work has been published in Demography, European Sociological Review, Social Forces, Social Science and Medicine, as well as other journals and books.


Amparo González-Ferrer, Center for Humanities & Social Sciences, Madrid

Title: Family migration, separation and the mental wellbeing of the children of migrants

Abstract: in this paper we measure the penalty in mental wellbeing that children of migrant and natives suffer as a consequence of separation from their parents. To do so, we use a unique dataset (CHANCES 2011) produced from a survey conducted in the Municipality of Madrid (Spain) with children in 3rd and 4th grade of secondary school. Using different statistical techniques, including HLM models, propensity score matching and treatment effects, we conclude that parental divorce imposes a significant penalty to the children of native parents, which is almost negligible among the children of immigrant origins. In contrast, the latter group suffers a significant penalty associated to sequential family migration. According to our findings, the negative impact of separation from parents because of migration related reasons is of a similar size to the loss in mental wellbeing that native children reflect upon parental divorce.
Biography: Amparo González-Ferrer is Senior Research Fellow at the Spanish National Research Council (CSIC) and member of the Research Group on Demographic Dynamics. She has extensively worked on international migration to Europe, with special attention to family-linked migration, political integration of migrants and determinants of international migration. She is currently coordinating the 7FP EU project TEMPER-Temporary versus Permanent Migration (, and was main investigator of the Spanish team of MAFE-Migration between Africa and Europe, both funded by the VII Framework Program of the EU Commission. She periodically collaborates with the Blog ‘Piedras de Papel’ ( writing on migration issues.

Michael Biggs

Michael Biggs, Department of Sociology, Oxford

Title: The Challenge of Replication and the Potential for Data Sharing

Abstract: Sociology lags behind other disciplines in establishing conventions for sharing data and code. Published research rarely provides the materials to enable replication. This conceals bad practices (and worse); it also hinders cumulative advances in the future. Drawing from my own research on social movements in Britain and the United States, I will sketch some suggestions. First, we should plan analysis with eventual sharing as the ultimate goal–all steps of the analysis should be replicable, long after memory has faded. Second, we need to archive datasets that we have created. We can draw inspiration from the pioneers of quantitative analysis in the 1960s and 1970s, whose legacy has been exploited in some of my own work. Third, we should collectively forge a culture that rewards the sharing of data; a dataset should be viewed as a scholarly contribution equal or indeed superior to publication of an article. Problems should be acknowledged. First, those who compile original data deserve time to use them before making them public. Second, data sharing confronts the ethical imperialism of ‘confidentiality’, which jeopardizes the most valuable kind of evidence for sociology, namely data which locates individuals within their social contexts.
Biography: Michael Biggs is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Oxford. He is fascinated by the dynamics of protest waves, from strikes in Chicago in 1886 to riots in London in 2011. He is also interested in the political uses of suffering, including self-immolation and hunger strikes. His articles have appeared in European Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Social Forces.


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